League pride takes a backseat during summer play.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
VIENNA -- If you take a quick look at the 11-player roster for the Ohio Stars 16-and-under softball team, you'll see four players from Canfield and four from Poland.
Considering their rivalry, you might expect a little tension between the players.
"We all really like each other," said Tricia Bettura, an outfielder/pitcher for the Stars from Canfield. "We get along better than most teams. It's been a lot of fun."
The Stars, who also have players from South Range, LaBrae and Austintown Fitch, have won two games and tied two others in pool play at this week's National Pony League Tournament at the Thunderplex heading into bracket play, which begins today.
More than 100 teams from three countries and more than 10 states have gathered at the inaugural tournament, which began Monday.
"The softball in our area is really good," said Stars manager Ray Melewski, whose daughter, Rachel, plays shortstop for the team. "But all the teams here are good. There aren't any bad teams. We don't take any of them lightly."
The Stars, who played winter league ball at the Thunderplex, won a qualifying tournament in June to earn a berth in this week's tournament.
Autumn Carter, who will be a sophomore at South Range, has played just one year of varsity softball, but she's already noticed a difference between high school and summer league.
"There's more competition," she said.
"It's a lot more intense," added Bettura. "You don't see the same number of tough teams during the high-school season."
You also don't see as many teams. The tournament includes teams from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Colorado, Quebec and the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic?
"Yeah, they're our favorite," Bettura said. "I don't think they speak English, though."
The Stars beat the Original Slik Chix (Albany, N.Y.) 11-1 in five innings on Tuesday. Jenna Medina (Poland) went the distance, striking out five and giving up four hits to get the win. Jel Pugh (LaBrae) had three hits and Mandy Moliterno (Canfield) had a single and a triple.
The Stars tied the Chester County (Pa.) Stars 1-1 in Tuesday's second game. Carter had two hits and scored Ohio's only run, while Lauren Sulick (Canfield) pitched four shutout innings and Bettura pitched the final three, giving up one run. Pugh added two hits. Staci Balkan (Fitch) and Julia Johnston (Poland) also had singles.
(Cierra Urichich and Krystal Rodriguez are the other two Bulldogs on the team.)
Ray Melewski doesn't want to look too far ahead, but he does have one goal for the next few days.
"We're just playing for Friday," he said. "That's when the Sweet Sixteen starts.
"After that, we'll worry about playing for Saturday."